There’s no denying that new technologies have also created new security risks online. From phishing and spam emails to full-blown data breaches and hacks, companies face many challenges to keep information secure.

With the additional requirements and regulations, health care information technology is one of the more challenging to protect.

Security breaches, which often result in the theft of personally identifiable information, are costing health care companies unthinkable profits. To fully comprehend the potential risk of these breaches, think back to the 2015 Anthem/Blue Cross breach that affected almost 80 million people.

These individuals’ compromised data includes names, birthdays, medical IDs, social security numbers, street addresses, email addresses, and employment information including pay statements.

The result of this information being stolen through Anthem/Blue Cross leaves the company vulnerable to lawsuits and the loss of profits.

Even if you’re a 10-person home health care agency, you can still be exposed to IT challenges and threats.

To help keep your company safe, here are a few of the top issues identified within the health care field and some solutions for you to implement.

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Minimizing security breaches and reducing cyber theft

To keep qualified personnel in and unqualified others out, install a business-class network security appliance (NSA) or firewall system. Having an NSA or firewall in place can be compared to positioning a police officer at the gate of your network. Essentially, these programs allow you to control what data enters and exits your network.

Backing your devices up with firewall capabilities will fully secure your information, as firewall security monitors traffic, blocks outside intruders and prevents hackers from accessing sensitive information. Be sure to keep in mind that these benefits are exclusive to outsiders, and you’ll need to secure things from the inside as well by screening and educating employees of human error.

Human error could be detrimental to the security of a company’s information if not directly addressed, and can include either malicious employee activity or accidental loss of a device or document. Take a minute to inform and educate your employees of what human errors could result in and how they can avoid simple but harmful mistakes.

Using technology to improve overall performance

One effective way to keep all internal and patient information secure is by using certified secure devices and software.

If your employees utilize multiple types of device, such as desktops, laptops, smartphones or tablets, consider implementing a unified communication suite to ensure security measures are uniform throughout all devices that handle patient information.

One safe option is a HIPAA-compliant communication system to keep information secure. You should also look for software that promotes its health care applications, as it’s more likely to have done the research to make sure it’s a good choice for your organization.

Some software may even offer demos, which will give you a chance to ask specific questions you have about security and operations.

You should also look for a free trial or 60-day guarantee, as this can show that the software has proven success for its customers.

After choosing and implementing these systems, be sure to do routine network assessments as well to double check that everything is working the way it is intended to.

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These assessments can be done either internally or hired out, and may involve network security testing, wireless and wired performance testing and Wi-Fi network testing.

If any of the tests fail, locate the issue and then repair or update equipment as necessary. Finding hidden problems within your equipment via routine checks can help you avoid major serious issues down the road.

Data breaches bring about financial struggles, reputation and trust issues, and legal problems. Avoiding these can be crucial for the success of your practice.

doctor showing patient charts on laptop

Increasing patient privacy and eliminating patient information leaks

With health care evolving into more digital practices, a lot of correspondence between providers and patients happens via email. The adoption of electronic health records moves everything to digital, as well.

Of course, this is mostly a great change. Providers can access patient data when they need it to make recommendations, patients can see their results and history online, and they can both communicate more easily. Even better, most of this can be done from a mobile device — a huge help to home health care teams.

In order to ensure emails containing sensitive information are secure, utilize email encryption.

Email encryption uses authentication mechanisms to prevent unauthorized individuals from accessing private email messages.

While most popular email platforms come with built-in encryption, that isn’t always enough for health care professionals. Have your employees adopt a secondary encryption system or patient information portal with suitable security measures to keep your patients’ information safe.

Promote passwords on all personal devices that are used for work, and encourage two-factor authentication. The added security increases data protection without being too inconvenient.

Leveraging security protocols to gain a competitive edge

According to a study done by HIMSS Analytics, ransomware or malware attacks increased 89% from 2016 to 2017 and likely will continue to rise. Ransomware exploits a company’s technological weaknesses and therefore requires a complex prevention strategy.

ransomware growth chart 2015 mcafee

Courtesy of Sysnet. Read more on ramsomware.

To give your company the upper hand, show your team how to identify risks of malware and ensure they are up-to-date on current ransomware threats.

Ensure that all systems are running the latest and greatest security software, operating systems, and firewalls. Locate all possible entry points for attackers, including network environments, endpoint devices and email accounts and lock them down.

If you are a smaller business, set your standard firewall to notify you of any suspicious activity. You can also hire an outsourced IT team, and ask them to perform checks on a regular basis.

Host a lunch-and-learn to share expert advice with your whole team at once. This can be especially helpful when your team is mobile, and using their own devices for work operations.

Having a plan is the first step to securing data

Healthcare is arguably the most crucial industry for ensuring sensitive information stays safe. From patient records transfer to the storage of company financial information, the risks of leaked information in the health care field are immense.

Home health care teams and all health care professionals carry the responsibility to ensure their patient data is protected, yet still accessible for those who need it.

However, as the business owner or a manager of health care professionals, you likely have more concerns on your mind. That’s why it all comes down to choosing the right health care software that can alleviate the routine tasks required of you. Freeing you up to focus on bigger and better initiatives.

How do you overcome IT issues in your organization?